Karlos L. Marshall, Inaugural Manager of the Greater West Dayton Incubator, Co-Founder and President of The Conscious Connect, Inc., and University of Dayton Graduate Student

Around the nation, we have heard calls for justice, equity, and even anti-racist policy action that holds America to its highest ideals and promises. These calls can be examined at the current intersections of COVID-19, policing, and politics. When the government established relief funds to support small businesses, we witnessed Black and brown businesses left on the sidelines for PPP money. Further, COVID-19 health disparities for racial and ethnic groups are both self-evident and glaring. Compounding this are the ongoing demands for accountability of law enforcement and elected officials.

However, we cannot stand idly by during moments of great moral conflict. The Marianist charism urges us to read the signs of the times, so we must advance social justice issues for marginalized communities. In my work at the University of Dayton, this has compelled me to lead courageous conversations regarding racial reconciliation to support diverse business owners. Additionally, the lack of educational and physical access for K-12 students during the pandemic has propelled my nonprofit organization’s mission further.

Since COVID, we have been able to expand literary access to end book deserts across Southwest Ohio. Our organization also transformed another vacant lot into a neighborhood pocket park with a basketball court, benches, bike stands, landscaping, and a trash can. We all must ask ourselves: “if not us, who? If not now, when?” We must all ensure that zip codes and backgrounds do not determine success.